Mark Townsend is founder, chairman, licensee and administrator of Caring Heart Residential Living and Loving Care Residential Living in Clovis. For the past 12 years, Caring Heart has provided high-quality residential care for the elderly in an attractive home environment. A 1981 Fresno State graduate, Townsend holds a bachelor’s degree in business.
Since 1982, Townsend has also spent much of his life in the financial services industry, initially as a life insurance agent for a leading insurance company, where he also held titles of regional vice president and national sales director. He was co-founder and chairman of SCF Marketing, as well as co-founder and financial operations principal of SCF Securities. Most recently he was founder and recruiting consultant for Innovative Advisors. Townsend is a member of the Society of Financial Service Professionals, the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors, The Rotary Club of Fresno and the Harley Owners Group of Fresno County.
Q (Sheldon Baker): What services does Caring Heart offer?
A (Mark Townsend): Caring Heart offers assistance with all activities of daily living. We provide 24- hour awake staffing on three 8-hour shifts each day. We also provide a second care provider during most awake hours. As a result, we can provide a high level of care for people that don’t fit in a typical independent and assisted living facility.
Q: Do you accept short- and long-term care residents?
A: Caring Heart provides a high level of care and we are sometimes called on to assist people that we know will not be a long-term resident with us. Because we are licensed and specially trained to provide care for residents with dementia and are licensed to coordinate care with hospice services in each of the homes, we are aware that sometimes a resident is with us for a short period of time. We are proud of the fact that we can almost guarantee families that their loved one will never have to move again. We have a doctor who sees residents in our care homes and we can bring in home health experts, physical therapists and others. As a result, we provide a very high level of care.
Q: Are you seeing more people having long-term care insurance?
A: We are a licensed facility approved by all long-term care policies that we have run into, but we do not see a larger percentage of people coming to us with coverage in place. Approximately 10 to 15 percent of our residents have some applicable insurance. The remainder pay for the care out-of-pocket.
Q: Does a smaller residential facility provide greater advantages?
A: A small facility has huge advantages over a large one. The biggest advantage is the care ratio that we provide. We have one or two care providers for six residents. Large facilities typically have one care provider for 12 residents and sometimes it is worse than that. With a large number of residents to look after, a care provider is forced to keep moving and not have the personal touch that is possible at Caring Heart. The second great advantage that we have is that the residents aren’t in a big facility. Grandma’s got a nice new home instead. Since there are only six residents at each home, each resident can have a part at planning the meals for the week. Also, the residents get to know the six or seven care providers that work in their home. We believe that it is a uniquely good environment for the elderly.
Q: Has 2017 brought any changes in the residential care industry?
A: The State of California has made it more and more difficult to be in this business. Year after year, our legislature passes new laws requiring more training and making it more difficult to get a care provider approved to work. The increases in the minimum wage affect everyone in our industry because there are so many hours involved in caring for the elderly. We are proud of the fact that many of our care providers have been with us for 5 to 12 years. We provide a higher pay rate than most and provide vacation pay that increases with years of service. But with all of the increased costs, it does make it harder to do what we do. As a result, fewer and fewer care homes provide the 24-hour awake staffing that we do. It has become much cheaper to have someone in the home on a 24-hour shift, sleeping when the residents do and hoping that no one has a problem at night.
Q: What is the significance of the typewriter next to you in your website photo?
A: The typewriter is a 1940s vintage Remington Rand typewriter that is one of my mother’s prized possessions. Mom was a magazine editor and a writer for many years and put a lot of wear and tear on that typewriter. She got a master’s degree before she had children and was quite the career woman before my brother, sister and I came along. When I approached mom with the idea of starting the care homes, she agreed to be the president of the corporation. Later she decided to teach a bible study at the homes each week, and she has been involved from the beginning.
Two years ago, at age 94 ½, she decided it was time to move out of her house, quit driving and slow down a little. She decided, with family encouragement, to move to Caring Heart – Buchanan. She can be seen with her walker, going around the block every day and feeding all of the cats in the neighborhood.
Q: What do you consider to be your greatest virtue?
A: My list includes diligence. The ability to keep going when things are tough. My work ethic has served me very well in life. I am a local guy. I went to Vinland, Tioga, Hoover and Fresno State. I realized that I would never luck into the career or position that I wanted in life. I was always willing to work hard to get where I wanted to be.
Q: Who are your heroes in real life?
A: My mother is one of my heroes. She approaches every challenge and every situation optimistically. When she moved to Caring Heart she refused to go to her house or do her old routine. She said that she needed to focus on this new chapter in her life. She said that she had enjoyed most chapters in her life and expected this one to be great as well. I think that attitude is a big part of why she is going strong at 96.
Sheldon C. Baker is chief executive officer for Clovis-based Baker Dillon Group and has created numerous brand marketing and public relations campaigns for companies and brands. For Q&A interview consideration e-mail Sheldon at SBaker@BakerDillon.com.